The Unschooling Method

Posted by Annie on Mar 11, 2008 in Legal |

In response to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial ‘Rule of Education’.

Homeschooling legal in Michigan since 1993!

An editorial, which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle today was quite disturbing. While the article pointed out the hypocrisy of a state that from all appearances believes every child in the state should be supervised by government officials, it went on to condemn parents who choose to "unschool" their children.

Clearly the author – isn’t it interesting that the most damning opinion editorials, never include the authors name – doesn’t understand what unschooling is.

In the article, the author states:

The homeschool movement would contend that the state’s approach of recent years – which is basically to look the other way – has worked just fine. They point to the homeschool graduates who are excelling at elite universities, or the students who are dominating spelling bees, as evidence that the laissez-faire approach should continue.

Then again, the students we worry about are those whose parents isolate them from a full curriculum of basic subjects – especially those who follow the philosophy of "unschooling."

Just for the record, unschooling is not the absence of education. It is the practice of using normal everyday things in the education process, instead of a more textbook centered learning experience. Some children need alternatives to the norm of spending hours with their nose buried in a book.

While some unschoolers prefer to use a "child-led" method in their own homeschooling efforts, which basically follows the interests of the child, as opposed to driving the process, this is not true for all unschooling homeschoolers. The child-led method works especially well for strong-willed children, who like to have their own way. It shows a respect for their needs and wishes, while at the same-time providing relevant learning opportunities. This individualized approach to learning is one not generally available to children enrolled in public schools, mainly because teachers with classrooms of 30+ students would consider it all-out anarchy.

As most teachers will tell you, not all children fit a standard mold. It is up to parents to find what works best for their child and work to provide the best learning method and environment to meet those needs.

Homeschooling is the best educational choice for many of our children. After all, what parent doesn’t want the best for their child? Parents who choose to educate their children at home must make accommodations to do so, usually reordering their lives, schedules, priorities and often even their careers. We have enough on our plates without having the state muscle in and second-guess our choices.

We have all been assigned teachers in school that we wish we didn’t have to deal with for one reason or another. Have you ever attempted to have a child moved to another class, when teacher and child rubbed each other the wrong way? It’s next to impossible. What if your child is enrolled in a charter school and you are assigned a teacher that doesn’t understand your child’s needs? It’s not easy to switch charter schools mid-term.

As adults we all have choices; If we don’t like the laws in California, we can choose to move to another state. We can choose what car we drive, we can choose where we spend our money and our time. What choice does a child have? They must either attend the school in their district, or hope their parents can afford a private school. Only in recent years has home study become an acceptable alternative. Prior to the acceptance of homeschooling, children had very few choices.

Following the logic of this author all parents would need to be:

  • A Licensed Chauffeur – better not drive your children anywhere.
  • A Certified Nutritionist – better not feed your children anything.
  • A Licensed Medical Doctor – forget about treating that banged up knee.
  • An Ordained Minister – nevermind those bedtime prayers.
  • A Licensed Nurse Practitioner – put away that thermometer and those aspirins.
  • A Licensed Psychologist – forget about modifying bad behaviors and kissing away those tears.

I’ve read many posts over the past few days about how homeschoolers should be overseen by credentialed teachers. What a joke. I recently spoke to a woman who has two children enrolled in a California charter school. During a brief conversation with her she extolled the benefits of her charter. She explained that she has $1600.00 per semester to spend on books, classes, computer software, etc. Her children were provided state-paid horseback riding lessons and guitar lessons. Gee, when I attended high school, I don’t recall horseback riding lessons as being part of the curriculum.

What really disturbed me was that when her children were tested, they just filled in the bubbles any ‘ole way – and of course they failed the test. She was taken to task about it and told she would be kicked out of the program if her children did it again. The following year, the tests were sent home with the children and allowed to do them under their mother’s supervision – without a teacher present. The children aced the tests and were honored during a special awards ceremony for being "most improved."

The children aren’t required to do any work or turn in any assignments; the "teacher" fudges all the numbers and records. What is this teaching these children? That ethics don’t matter? How to get around the system?

What those who support "homeschool oversight" fail to realize is that even though the law still requires teachers to be ethical, many are not. Teachers are so overwhelmed with their current workload; they simply don’t have the time to properly monitor additional students. No matter what safeguards are put in place by the state, dishonest parents, teachers and children can and will get around the rules.

If you are thinking, “at least someone will be able to monitor the children, so they won’t fall through the cracks.” That’s simply bunk. Every one of us who attended the public school knows at least one child who was being abused or mistreated at home and yet no one spoke up. Just because a child has contact with a teacher doesn’t mean a thing.

In this country we have laws that say we are innocent until proven guilty. Parents, who are found to be abusive, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The rest of us just want to be free to live our lives, teach our children and help them grow up to be the best they can be.

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